How Are Birthdays Celebrated In The Philippines? A Complete Guide

Written by Pamela Denila, Edited by Samantha Bellerose

As a Filipino person, I love celebrating my birthday! In fact, you will find that most Filipino people love to celebrate birthdays! They are like a mini-reunion where family and loved ones can come together and the best thing is we can do this multiple times a year for each other!

Filipino people celebrate their birthdays at home, at restaurants, or at the beach. The birthday celebrants’ family prepares food for all the guests. Birthday cakes are also present at Filipino birthdays, and the guests usually bring a birthday present to give to the birthday boy or girl.

Hi, I am Pamela, and I have had many birthdays in the Philippines so continue reading on to find out more interesting facts about the ways people celebrate their birthdays in my home country the Philippines!

Differences and Similarities Between Philippine and Western Birthdays

Due to noticeable cultural differences between Philipines and the Western culture, there are various ways in which Philipino birthdays differ from those in the west. Also, there are a few ways they are similar. For further explanations of all the points in the table read on after this section!

Philippine BirthdaysWestern Birthday
ImportanceBirthdays are believed to be a blessing to the Filipino people, so Filipinos always find a way to celebrate birthdays even in the simplest way.In the west, any birthday can pretty much be special if you want it to be and you can have celebrations at any age, although there are some most people defer to for big occasions.
Significant BirthdaysFor Filipinos, the 1st, 7th, 18th, 21st, and 60th birthdays are significant but every birthday can be celebrated. Most Western people place significance on certain birthdays, such as 1st, 13th, 16th, and 21st, and then each decade’s birthday like a 30th or 40th thereafter for example. But any and every birthday can be celebrated. Some people even celebrate half birthdays!
CakeBirthday cake is always present at Filipino birthdays, the family or friends of the birthday celebrant are the ones who bring the birthday cake and let the celebrant blow the candles.In the west, you can’t call it a birthday party without a cake and candles. People go out of their way to ensure there is a cake to cut and for candles to be blown out.
FoodFilipinos love to celebrate birthdays because the food made is the family’s specialty and during special birthdays roast pig is served which is a favorite food for Filipinos.Party food which is usually processed and full of sugar is generally eaten at children’s birthday parties. Sometimes food is designed and created around a birthday party theme. Adult birthday parties can follow a similar cuisine, but many will offer a meal that includes the birthday person’s favorite food, followed by dessert.
Age on BirthdaySame with the west, every year when a baby is born, 1 year is added to his or her age.In the west, a baby is zero at the time they are born and each year on the anniversary of their birth they turn a year older.
Date of BirthdayThe day the person is born is the date of their birthday.

Mostly in the past, some people’s birthday on their birth certificate is not the same as the day they were actually born. This is because there is a penalty when you register your child late, so to avoid this, some mothers changed the date to being later than it was to make the cut-off date.
Most westerner’s birthday is the day they were born. For some older people, the date might differ because the registration of births differed considerably from the past to today, and to save hassle they just go with what the paperwork states.
When to celebrateFilipino people usually celebrate their birthday on the exact day they were born, but sometimes if their birthday falls on a weekday, or Wednesday for example, the birthday celebrant decides to celebrate his/her birthday on a weekend, so they can go to the beach to celebrate.In the west, if your birthday falls on a weekday, you might have a small family celebration that night, but your party might occur on the weekend or the best date around your birthday when you are able to get a venue or do an activity you were looking forward to. It is the birthday person’s choice, but generally, the day would be within a week or two of the actual birth date.
How old are you?In the Philippines, this question is usually asked after singing the birthday song and in most cases, the adult celebrants don’t answer the question especially if they have already reached their 50s. But when kids are asked this question, they respond immediately with their age.Many Adult westerners find it impolite to be asked how old they are especially by strangers. It is generally ok to ask them around their birthday time especially if they are having a party and you are invited to celebrate with them. Parents on the other hand are always telling everyone all about their children and their ages – it is ok to discuss the ages of children.
GiftsFilipinos love to receive and give gifts to the celebrant, but this is not necessary on all birthdays, gifts are usually given on special birthdays like their first birthday, 7th, 18th, and 60th.If you are invited to a party, it is obligatory to bring a card and a gift for the birthday person. The gift should be something you think the birthday person would like and if you are unsure – money or a gift card is also ok to give.
SongBirthday songs, particularly the “Happy birthday song” are usually sung before the celebrant blows the candle, everyone sings this song including the birthday celebrant. The ‘Happy Birthday Song’ is traditionally sung after lighting candles on the birthday cake. The candles are then blown out after the song has finished by the birthday person who makes a personal secret wish when blowing them out.

Do people in the Philippines celebrate their birthdays?

Definitely, YES! Most Filipinos celebrate their birthdays including me!

Because for us, it is a great blessing to have been able to reach a particular age or to have been given a chance to celebrate another year of living on earth!

We celebrate it by inviting our loved ones to celebrate with us.

Do Filipino people celebrate any special or specific Birthdays?

1st Birthday

The 1st birthday of a Filipino child is the most awaited celebration for most first-time parents, in this celebration baby clothes, feeding bottles, cribs, and a bathtub is usually the gifts that the birthday celebrant is receiving, and since it is the child’s first birthday expect a lot of giggles, cheek pinching, and some discourse between the parents, godparents, and relatives.

7th Birthday

The 7th birthday in Filipinos is a big deal as this embarks a new beginning for toddlers where it means that they are more accountable for their actions and they are old enough to know the consequences of their actions, the right and wrong and this also means that they are graduating from pre-school and starting off a new journey in the primary school. Most parents throw a big birthday party when their child turns seven.

18th and 21st Birthday

The 18th (for girls) and 21st (for boys) birthday in Filipinos is significant as this marks their transition from puberty to maturity. The 18th birthday of a girl is usually called a debut, where they are given a lavish birthday party, with 18 roses wherein the debutant will receive a rose and have a dance with selected male friends, 18 candles wherein 18 female friends will give a message or wishes and candle to the debutant), 18 treasures wherein the debutant will receive gifts from 18 selected friends and family or 18 shots of tequila, wherein 18 family or friends of the debutant will take 1 shot then give a message to the celebrant.

As for the male’s 21st birthday, it is celebrated but boys do not usually throw big parties.

50th Birthday

Reaching the age 0f 50 is a very big milestone for most Filipinos so we are celebrating this with a bang! The family usually surprises the celebrant with a birthday party where relatives and friends come together and celebrate the life of the celebrant. This birthday is also termed as “golden birthday”.

60th Birthday

This birthday is by far the grandest for most Filipinos, as this is a big achievement and this means that the celebrant will be retiring from work and just do the things that they wanted to do at home or anywhere around the sun.

This is celebrated in order to give thanks for the 60 years of life and for being able to have reached this far.

What Food is Eaten at a typical Filipino Birthday Party?

Filipinos love to eat! So on a Filipino birthday, there is a variety of foods that are served such as Lumpiang Shanghai, Pancit, Palabok, Filipino Spaghetti, Dinuguan, Kaldereta, and Lechon.

What is Lumpiang Shanghai

lumpiang shanghai filipino food

Lumpia, sometimes known as Lumpiang Shanghai, is a Filipino egg roll. Ground pork, minced onions, carrots, and seasonings form the foundation of the filling.

What is Pancit

Pancit is a simple dish that incorporates two varieties of noodles: bihon and sotanghon. Rice sticks are the original type of noodle. Pancit bihon is a delicious way to use it. Green bean thread is the name given to Sotanghon. This tasty pancit meal is simple to prepare. It is also cost-effective.

What is Palabok

Pancit Palabok is a mainstay in Filipino cuisine and is popular during office parties, birthdays, and other celebrations. This pancit is tasty and filling, with a flavorful sauce that will make your mouth wet. It has grown in popularity to the point where one of our favorite fast food businesses, Jollibee, has added it to their menu!

What is Filipino Spaghetti

The Pinoy (another synonym for Filipino) variation of spaghetti with meat sauce is called Filipino Spaghetti. Ground pig, luncheon meat, and hotdogs are among the meat constituents in this variation, which features a sweet tomato-based sauce. It’s frequently offered at children’s birthday parties, accompanied with some delectable fried chicken and cake.

What is Dinuguan

Dinuguan, commonly known as chocolate meat because of its dark brown colours, is a delicacy for the most adventurous. But don’t be deceived by the sweetness of this dish. This spicy stew is made up of ingredients that are the furthest thing from chocolate. Dinuguan is a warm, hearty, and substantial dish known (or infamous?) for its major ingredient: pork blood. With bay leaves, onions, ginger, garlic, and long green pepper, you’ve got yourself a tasty stew! We have passed down a recipe for cooking dinuguan, as well as all of its robust flavors, for years.

What is Kaldereta

The thick texture and intense savory flavor of this orange stew make it a favorite among Filipinos. While there are several Kaldereta variations available, the classic version employs semi-sweet goat flesh as its protein source. Come prepare some Kalderetang Kambing with me if you want to learn how to make it with this particularly delicious type of meat!

What is Lechon

Filipino Lechon

The majority of Filipino festivals include a wide range of offerings. We are typically faced with so many food alternatives in gatherings, from vivid fruit salad to the classic savory pancit. The classic lechon, on the other hand, is nearly never absent from the menu.

Nothing beats being with the people you love and enjoying the food that was served and cooked with love.

Do people have birthday cakes at their parties in the Philippines?

On Filipino birthdays, cakes should always be present, even if there are just a few foods on the table!

It’s not a Filipino birthday if there are no cakes from Goldilocks or Red Ribbon (famous pastry shops in the Philippines).

If not, anyone who knows how to bake would undoubtedly bring a home-baked Pinoy cheese or yema (a classic Filipino candy made from a mixture of milk and egg yolks cooked over low heat until thickened) cake, as well as the ube-popular ube (Taro or Purple Yam) cake.

Do People in the Philippines Give Gifts at Birthday Parties?

Filipinos also love to receive gifts but we consider the presence of our loved ones as a gift so in Filipino birthdays, gifts are not necessary.

On the important birthdays mentioned above gifts are generally given, but on 2nd for example or any other birthdays, gifts are usually not necessary, because the presence of their loved ones is considered to be the gift already.

It is up to the guest to give but it should be coming from their heart if they want to give.

After all, it’s the bond and the reunion which makes the birthday celebrant happy on his/her birthday!

Is the Birthday Song or ‘Happy Birthday to You’ sung in the Philippines?

Filipinos usually sing the Happy Birthday song before the celebrant blows the candle, just like other countries.

But in the Philippines, the family of the celebrant also requests their neighbors sing what we call “harana” to the birthday celebrant where a number of birthday songs are sung.

What is Harana?

In the Philippines, some of the birthday celebrants are surprised with “harana” or offering songs to the birthday celebrant during the dawn, the neighbors of the celebrant will gather and will go to the home of the celebrant with flowers and candles to be given to the celebrant.

Two of the offering or birthday songs are Today and Birthday Round the Lay. You can read the lyrics below:

Today by The New Christy Minstrels

Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine

A million tomorrows shall all pass away
Ere I forget all the joy that is mine today

I’ll be a dandy and I’ll be a rover
You’ll know who I am by the song that I sing
I’ll feast at your table, I’ll sleep in your clover

Who cares what the morrow shall bring?
Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wineI can’t be contented with yesterday’s glory
I can’t live on promises winter to spring (winter to spring)

Today is my moment and now is my storyI’ll laugh and I’ll cry and I’ll sing
Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine
A million tomorrows shall all pass away
Ere I forget all the joy that is mini today

“Birthday round the lay”

We are here to greet you
On your natal day
We are here to sing you
A birthday round the lay

It’s a Happy Birthday
We are happy too
Now we sing with all our hearts
Because we love you so

It is a birthday round the lay
Round the lay-oh-lay

Happy holiday
It is a happy birthday round the lay
Round the lay oh lay
It is a happy happy
Happy holiday
It is a happy birthday round the lay
Round the lay oh lay


Karaoke is a must at birthday parties in the Philipines!

Filipinos enjoy singing in addition to eating. We are obsessed with singing karaoke, and it is an absolute must during birthday celebrations. The party will not begin without it.

Filipino people celebrate even if the birthday person is not present!

Another, interesting piece of information about Filipino birthdays is that even if the birthday celebrant is gone, the family still celebrates the birthday of that person.


Filipino family
  • In the Philippines, most people celebrate their birthdays as they believe that life is precious and should be celebrated.
  • To celebrate their special day, the families of the birthday celebrant usually prepare food for the guests.
  • Special birthdays are a first birthday, seventh, eighteenth, and 60th birthday. Roast pig is the best food to serve on these special occasions!

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